Espresso vs Drip Coffee (Know the Differences!)

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Johny Morrisson


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♡ Written by Humans for Humans

Espresso and drip coffee are two of the most popular ways to make coffee, but what sets them apart? While both provide us with our morning caffeine fix, the brewing processes and flavor profiles offer very different experiences.

Drip coffee involves slowly filtering water through ground coffee in an automatic drip machine or manual pour-over. This process produces a mellow and light coffee drink. Espresso uses pressure to quickly extract a concentrated shot from finely ground beans, resulting in a robust and intense coffee with crema on top.

Espresso vs Drip coffee

An Overview of Espresso

Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee that is brewed by forcing hot pressurized water at 9-10 bars through very finely ground coffee beans.

This pressurized brewing method results in a small and concentrated 1-ounce shot crowned with a stunning light brown layer of crema in just 20-30 seconds.

Espresso coffee

The intense flavor, rich aroma, and high caffeine concentration of espresso make it a strong beverage that may not appeal to everyone, but it is for these attributes that espresso is highly regarded.

Most of your favorite coffee drinks including Latte, Americanos, and Cappuccinos are made with an espresso shot as a base.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association, the definition of Espresso is:

Espresso is a 25–35ml (.85–1.2 ounce [×2 for double]) beverage prepared from 7–9 grams (14–18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195°–205°F (90.5°–96.1°C) has been forced at 9–10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20–30 seconds. While brewing, the flow of espresso will appear to have the viscosity of warm honey and the resulting beverage will exhibit a thick, dark golden crema. Espresso should be prepared specifically for and immediately served to its intended consumer.”

Speciality Coffee Association

An Overview of Traditional Drip Coffee

Drip coffee is a brewing technique that involves pouring hot water over ground coffee carefully placed in a filter. As the water passes through the coffee grounds, it delicately captures their flavors and aromas that gracefully drips into a pot or carafe.

This popular and straightforward process involves a more extended extraction process compared to espresso, resulting in a milder and often larger serving of coffee.

Drip coffee

Drip coffee is famous for its nuanced aroma and balanced flavor. It is incredibly common, affordable, and easy to make.

Unlike espresso, the brewing method of drip coffee doesn’t require precise attention to the process. Anyone can make this coffee, one just needs the drip coffee maker.

difference between espresso and drip coffee

At this point, you have got the idea about the basics of how espresso and drip coffee are two different brewing methods. Now, I’ll walk you through the key differences between the two methods.

1) The taste of Espresso vs Drip coffee

Espresso has much stronger and intense flavors compared to drip coffee. The high-pressure extraction brings out the natural oils and robust notes of the beans.

You taste deeper chocolate and caramel notes, with a pleasant lingering bitterness on the back of the tongue. The crema adds texture and amplifies the aroma too.

Overall, a very bold and nuanced experience!

Drip coffee is a smooth and mellow brew that gently coaxes out the delicate fruity and floral nuances of the beans.

Rather than a harsh aftertaste, it presents an array of aromatic compounds that deliver a vibrant acidity and a bright finish. Notes of berry, citrus, and herbs come to the forefront, making it a perfect way to leisurely enjoy the origin flavors of coffee.

2) The Serving Size and the Caffeine content

For a single-shot espresso, the serving size is 1-1.25 ounces, and a double shot espresso is 2-2.25 ounces. On the other hand, the regular serving of drip coffee is somewhere between 6 to 10 oz.

As for caffeine content, it largely depends on the type and roast of the beans used. A single shot of espresso typically contains 60-70 mg of caffeine, while an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains 65-120 mg.

So, does drip coffee have more caffeine than espresso?

Yes! A typical serving of drip coffee does have more caffeine than a serving of Espresso. But remember, espresso is only 1 ounce and coffee is 8 ounces. So, Espresso can surely give you a higher caffeine jolt.

3) Versatility of the Drinks

A drip coffee machine is a versatile tool that can be used to prepare a variety of coffee drinks, including iced coffee, Cafe Au Lait, and even some dessert recipes.

However, espresso is arguably the most versatile coffee base, as it can be used to create a wide range of drinks. In fact, there are 30 different types of Espresso drinks celebrated around the World.

If you’re not a fan of the strong, concentrated flavor of espresso, you can try lattes, cappuccinos, americanos, macchiatos, affogatos, and many more.

4) The Coffee beans and the Grind size

There is no difference between Espresso beans and drip coffee beans. You can literally prepare Espresso with any type of coffee bean out there.

But Medium-dark or dark-roasted beans are preferred for Espresso as the darker roasts extract flavors more readily.

The grind size used for espresso and drip coffee differs considerably.

The grind size of the beans for espresso should be fine or powdery. This allows water to extract the maximum amount of caffeine and flavor in the short brewing time.

On the other hand, the grind size for drip coffee beans is medium to medium coarse which prevents over-extraction.

5) The Health Factor | Is espresso healthier than coffee?

Be it any coffee, espresso, or drip, the health benefits are largely attributed to the number of antioxidants and compounds found in coffee beans.

According to multiple studies, coffee has been linked to several health benefits, which include, reducing cancer risk by 18%, and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

Espresso is typically easier on the stomach than drip coffee. The reason is the shorter brewing time which results in smaller extraction of stomach-sensitive compounds.

However, the high concentration of caffeine in Espresso may upset caffeine-sensitive folks.

Read a detailed guide on the benefits of Espresso

Espresso Machine vs Drip Coffee Machine

Now let’s briefly discuss the differences between an Espresso machine and the traditional drip coffee maker

Espresso machine vs drip coffee machine

1) The Brewing Principle

The brewing principle of Espresso machines is a little more complicated than a Drip coffee machine.

In Espresso machines, water is forced to pass through tightly packed fine coffee grounds at a pressure of 9-10 bars while in coffee machines water is dripped through medium coffee grounds at normal pressure.

2) Ease of Use and the Brewing time

Espresso machines are quick they can pull a shot in a matter of seconds while drip machines require water to steep through coffee grounds for some time to extract flavors.

Drip coffee machines are easy to use even a beginner can brew a perfect cup of coffee using these machines while operating Espresso machines are little tricky and requires some skills.

When you use an espresso machine, you have to grind the coffee beans to perfection, tamp the grounds perfectly into the portafilter, and take control of the final yield, and a beginner can easily mess up these settings resulting in a terrible shot of Espresso.

Super-automatic Espresso machines are available though which can make things a lot easier.

3) The Budget Factor

Espresso machines were designed for pressurized brewing systems that require far more sophisticated machinery and build quality than drip coffee makers, hence the espresso machines are expensive.

Quality drip coffee machines can be purchased for under 100 dollars, while espresso machines typically start at 200 dollars and can go up to 500-2000 dollars for high-quality models.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, all the nitty gritty differences between espresso and drip coffee. When it comes to the espresso vs drip debate, I tend to enjoy both!

Espresso definitely provides that strong kick I need in the mornings. But drip coffee is ideal for sipping leisurely in the evenings.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite between espresso and drip coffee! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also Read other Espresso Comparisons

FAQs

How many grams of Coffee in a shot of Espresso vs Drip coffee

For espresso, the coffee-to-water ratio is 1:2, around 7-9 grams for a 1 ounce shot. Whereas, for drip coffee, it’s about 1:17, around 13-15 grams for 8 oz serving.

Can you make Espresso in a Drip coffee maker?

No, you can’t make true espresso using a drip coffee maker. The key is that espresso requires 9+ bars of pressure to properly extract the flavors and aromas from finely ground beans. Drip makers simply drip hot water over the grounds at normal pressure.

Johny Morrison is a founder and content creator at Coffee About, bringing passion and expertise to the world of coffee.

You can often find him sipping a single-origin pour-over, rich French press, or pulling espresso shots at home. Johny loves full-bodied dark roasts – the bolder, the better!

As a former barista, he takes coffee equipment seriously and enjoys experimenting with the latest gear. When he’s not brewing or blogging, Johny is scouting local cafes for his next coffee fix.